Requests in the Speech of Adult Heritage and Native Speakers of Russian

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Requests in the Speech of Adult Heritage and Native Speakers of Russian. Irina Dubinina idubinin@brandeis.edu Bryn Mawr College & Brandeis University. Special thanks. Dr. Sophia Malamud (coding production data and contributing to the analysis discussion) Anna Slavina (technical support).
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Requests in the Speech of Adult Heritage and Native Speakers of RussianIrina Dubininaidubinin@brandeis.eduBryn Mawr College & Brandeis UniversitySpecial thanks
  • Dr. Sophia Malamud (coding production data and contributing to the analysis discussion)
  • Anna Slavina (technical support)
  • Requests: speech act universals
  • When a request concerns A that will benefit S and inconvenience H, Russian & English both prefer indirect strategies (notably, interrogatives)
  • -Ne podbrosiš do doma? NEG give.lift.PFV.2.SG to home- Can you give me a ride?
  • Conventionalized indirect R may involve sentences concerning (Searle)
  • - S’s wish or want that H do A - H’s ability to do A - H’s desire or willingness to do A - H doing ARequests: English vs. Russian
  • English prefers H’s ability to perform A
  • Russian prefers either H’s ability OR H doing A (perfective future). - Ty ne mozhesh/ne mog by podbrosit’ men’a do doma?You.SG NEG can.2.SG /NEG can.SBJV give.lift me.ACC to home- Can/could you give me a lift home? - Ty ne podbrosish men’a do doma? You.SG NEG give.lift.PFV.2.SG me.ACC to home- Will you give me a lift home?Requests: English vs. Russian
  • Morpho-syntactic means of expressing politeness
  • English conventionally uses mood (subjunctive) Russianuses antithetical particle (NEG) alone or together with subjunctive particle (subjunctive mood). The use of NEG is almost obligatory to signal requestive intent. Ty ne možeš/ne mog by podbrosit’ menja do doma?You.SG NEG can.2.SG /NEG can.SBJV give.lift me.ACC to home##Ty možeš// mog by podbrosit’ menja do doma?You.SG can.2.SG /can.SBJV give.lift me.ACC to home- Can/could you give me a lift home?Requests: English vs. Russian
  • Lexical means of marking politeness:
  • English often inserts “please” even in interrogativesRussian rarely uses “please” in interrogatives, especially in H doing A- #Ty ne mog by menja podbrosit’ do doma, požalujsta? You.SG NEG can.SBJV me.ACC give.lift to home, please - ## Ty ne podbrosiš menja do doma, požalujsta?You.SG NEG give.lift.PFV.2.SG me.ACC to home, please - Could you give me a lift home, please?Requests: English vs. Russian
  • Orientation of requests:
  • Although both languages produce requests focusing on either the H or the S, there are preferred patterns.English uses S-oriented sentences Russian likes H-oriented sentences. - Ty ne daš mne deneg?You.SG NEG give.PFV.2.SG me.DAT money.GEN- Could I borrow some money?Russian specifics
  • Možno – impersonal modal with dual meaning:
  • - possibility (usually with imperfective infinitive) - permission (with perfective infinitive)
  • Requests usually refer to a one-time completed action  PFV
  • SO: možno suggests a request for permission. - Možno vz’at’ vašu knigu?Psbl.imp to.take.PFV your.PL.ACC book.ACC “May I take your book?”
  • Lexical politeness marker is rarely used in these requests:
  • - ##Možno požalujsta vz’at’ vašu knigu?Psbl.imp please to.take.PFV your.PL.ACC book.ACCRussian specifics
  • S questioning H performing A : the same propositional content as the interrogative:
  • - Ty ne zakroeš okno?You.SG NEG close.PFV.2.SG window.ACC
  • Word order, aspect, negation, intonation affect H’s perception:
  • - Okno ty ne zakroeš ? request-reminderWindow.ACC you.SG NEG close.2.SG - Ty ne budeš zakryvat’ okno? request-reproachYou.SG NEG will.2.SG close.IPF window.ACC - Ty budeš zakryvat’ okno? info-seeking QnYou.SG will.2.SG close.IPF window.ACC- Okno ty budeš zarkyvat’? Threat/ warningWindow.ACC you.SG will.2.SG close.IPF (Ty okno budeš zakryvat’?)Russian specifics
  • Russian has a larger repertoire than English
  • to make conventionally polite indirect requests in terms of:
  • Utterance content (questioning H’s ability & questioning H doing A)
  • Morpho-syntactic means of marking politeness (NEG, SBJV & interrogative particle*)
  • Present study
  • No significant studies of HL pragmatics to date
  • Yet, HS can function in the language performing a variety of usual daily communicative tasks well enough despite grammatical and lexical deficiencies
  • Initial data collection and analysis to explore communicative competence of HS in the framework already used for L1 and L2 pragmatics (Blum-Kulka “CCSARP”)
  • Research questions:
  • Are Russian HS similar or different to NS in making and understanding requests?
  • How?
  • Do HS have their own communicative norms, i.e. have they restructured pragmatic rules?
  • If yes, did these new norms develop under the influence of English or as a result of morphological restructuring?
  • ParticipantsParticipants: heritage speakers
  • All college students, traditional college age
  • Mean age of immigration to the U.S. – 3.52
  • (62% left Russia before the age of 6; 21% were born in the U.S.)
  • 89% never had any schooling in Russian (formal or informal)
  • Self-reported language use:
  • Mean % using Russian with mother – 85% (SD = 27)Mean % using Russian with father – 82.89% (SD= 33)Mean % using Russian with grandparents – 95% (SD= 20)Mean % using Russian with siblings – 19% (SD = 27)Participants: heritage speakers
  • Native language (self-evaluation):
  • English – 25.5%, Russian – 51%, Russian and English – 12%, could not say – 6%
  • Average speech rate:
  • in Russian – 88 wpm (min – 36, max – 199), SD = 26 in English – 148 wpm (min - 76; max- 198), SD = 29
  • Average speech rate of native Russian speaker – 105
  • (Polynsky and Kagan, 2007) Study design: comprehension
  • Written questionnaire:
  • “On a crowded bus, a man, speaking with neutral intonation, addresses you with the following…”
  • Utterances for evaluation - from Margaret Mills’ study on Russian requestives (1992); include
  • direct (imperative) requests
  • conventionally indirect (surface interrogative) requests
  • interrogatives which may be interpreted by native speakers as non-requests
  • Variations in word order, aspect, negation, and lexical markers; random grouping of sentences; several versions of questionnaire
  • Study design: comprehension
  • Directness:
  • This is a direct straightforward request.
  • This doesn’t look like a typical request, but I’d still take it as a request.
  • I don’t recognize this phrase as a request.
  • Politeness:
  • This request is very rude, rude, impolite, slightly impolite, polite, too polite
  • Main results: comprehension
  • HS are close to NS in the perception of the directness and politeness of requests addressed to them. However, there are differences.
  • HS are not as sensitive to the changes of word order influencing politeness;
  • HS do not have the same understanding of the pragmatic force of verbal aspect (info-seeking Q vs request);
  • HS seem to transfer English politeness strategies onto Russian structures and are not attentive to details;
  • HS seem to rely on lexical politeness marker in their perception of politeness more heavily (than NS).
  • “Molodoj čelovek, young manvy neyou.PL NEGzakroetewill.close.PFV.2.PLokno?”window.ACC(p = .44)“Molodoj čelovek, young manvy neyou.PL NEGzakroetewill.close.PFV.2.PLokno?”window.ACC(p = .34)politeness“Molodoj čelovek, young manoknowindow.ACCvy neyou.PL NEGzakroete?”will.close.PFV.2.PL(p = .39)“Molodoj čelovek, young manoknowindow.ACCvy neyou.PL NEGzakroete?”will.close.PFV.2.PL (p = .000)politenessVO order vs OV orderDiscussion: comprehensionAlthough HS have some understanding of the pragmatic meaning of word order (VO request – 40% impolite; OV – 55% impolite)BUT they are not as sensitive to the changes in word order influencing politeness (p = .000) as NS: (Close to 50% in the control group rated the inverted word order as impolite in comparison to 10% of HS)“Molodoj čelovek, young manvy neyou.PL NEGzakroetewill.close.PFV.2.PLokno?”window.ACC(p = .44)“Molodoj čelovek, young manvy neyou.PL NEGbudete zakryvat’will.2.PL to.close.IPFV okno?”window.ACC(p = .005)Perf. Aspect (request) Imperf (info-seek Q*)Discussion: comprehensionHS do not have the same understanding of the pragmatic force of verbal aspect (request vs non-request) as NS:The switch from perfective to imperfective signaled a change in the communicative intent of the speaker for the control group (55% = not a request), but not for the HS (0% = not a request) p =.005“Molodoj čelovek, young manvy neyou.PL NEGbudete zakryvat’will.2.PL to.close.IFV okno?”window.ACC(p = .37)politenessDiscussion: comprehension
  • HS seem to transfer English politeness strategies onto Russian structures and are not attentive to details:
  • možet- part of modal operator (3 SG)
  • možete – inflected form matching the subject (2 PL)
  • HS are not familiar with punctuation rules and may ignore comas and hence the suggested intonation
  • HS are not bothered by the lack of conventionalized morpho-syntactic politeness markers in Russian, such as the antithetical particle or the subjunctive.
  • “Molodoj čelovek, young manmožet, vymaybe you.PLzakroetewill.close.PFV.2.PL okno?”window.ACC(p = .003)“Molodoj čelovek, young manmožet, vymaybe you.PLzakroetewill.close.PFV.2.PL okno?”window.ACC(p = .000)politenesspoliteness“Molodoj čelovek, young manzakrojte,close.2.PL.IMPpožalujsta, pleaseоkno.”window.ACC(p = .17)politeness“Molodoj čelovek, young manzakrojteclose.2.PL.IMP okno!”window.ACC(p = .045)Discussion: comprehension
  • HS seem to be less forgiving of the missing politeness marker “please” than NS:
  • Transfer from English?
  • Absence of grammatical means for expressing politeness (attrition or incomplete acquisition?)
  • Study Design: Production
  • 2 role-enactments
  • SIT 1: asking to borrow lecture notes from a classmate
  • SIT 2: asking to borrow a rare book from the instructor
  • 10 HS; 10 NS
  • Head acts identified and analyzed, using a modified version of the CCSARP taxonomy (Blum-Kulka and Kasper 1989)
  • Main results: productionHS seem to have an impoverished repertoire of strategies to make indirect polite requests in Russianbothin types of utterances and morpho-syntactic means of politeness Main results: production (cont’d)HS compensate by1. Relying almost exclusively on lexical politeness marker, producing combinations which sound “strange” to NS (možno požalujsta)Over-using modal možno.3. Relying on morpho-syntactic politeness strategies from English, e.g. embedded interrogative under performative (transfer)Situation 1: expression of IF (p = .11)Situation 1: syntactic form (p = .73)Situation 1: morpho-syntactic politeness (p = .05)Situation 1: lexical politeness (p = .045)What’s going on?
  • MICASE: 54% of occurrences of "please" were in direct requests & 35.5% - in indirect requests.
  • In a subcorpus of RNC 93% of all occurrences of požalujsta were in direct requests, and zero - in indirect.
  • The overusage of požalujsta seems to be a transfer from the dominant language
  • What’s going on?
  • HS also overuse the impersonal modal možno - using it either by itself or in combination with “please” (65% total). The latter doesn’t happen in NS speech in this data set.
  • Corpus data and Google searches produce numerous examples of this word in requests. However, there are differences in how NS use možno
  • HS may be re-analyzing the “rule”for using možno (expanding its domain)
  • HS request “formula”
  • HS may have their own form of conventionalized indirect request– možno (+ požalujsta) regardless of the social context
  • Since this form is allowable in the baseline (at least in some contexts), HS communicative intent is generally understood quite clearly by NS.
  • NB: especially because all other components of a request are present
  • What’s going on?
  • Since one of the interpretations of možno (especially when it’s followed by a verb) is the notion of “permission”, we may expect to find it in child-adult interactions more frequently. (child requests involve a request for permission)
  • Knowledge of communicative norms depends heavily on socialization and since there isn’t enough socialization in different contexts (where one would need to ask for favor), HS don’t understand the difference between the inflected and impersonal modals.
  • OR American socialization suppresses Russian communicative norms in favor of English norms.
  • Situation 1: orientation of request(p = .007) Situation 2: expression of illocutionary force (p = .96)Situation 2: utterance type (p = .2)Situation 2: morpho-syntactic politeness(p = .35)Situation 2: lexical politeness(p = .12)Situation 2: orientation of request(p = .17)Pedagogical implications
  • HS come across as being fluent to some degree; their communicative intent is generally understood by NS (although most are rated as non-NS by NS)
  • What educators can do to help HS get closer to NS:
  • Develop attention to form
  • Explicit instruction on lang specific politeness strategies
  • Explicit comparisons of requestive strategies and politeness markers in dominant and HL
  • Interactive communicative assignments with modeling (to practice native-like strategies for various speech acts)
  • Next steps
  • CHILDES: check for occurrence of možno in input and output
  • Check NS for occurrence of možno požalujsta (followed by noun or by verb?)
  • Frequency of different strategies – what’s preferred by each group? (in addition to možno, it will be embedding)
  • Comprehension of requestive utterance without NEG
  • Correlation between proficiency and preferred requestive strategy
  • Main results: production (cont’d)HS seem to have re-analyzed the impersonal modal možno to include the meanings of English can/could and of the Russian inflected model verb, and use it as a politeness markerMožno – a request marker (communicative norm)Not easily translatable, možno is closely related to the inflected forms of the possibility modal možeš/možete (same root) which translates nicely into English -- “can/could”
  • Since English indirect requests conventionally include a possibility modal (69% of indirect requests in MICASE), HS may be reinterpreting the meaning of možno to express the function of English possibility modals.
  • Vulnerable domain?  ambiguity of input and surface overlap between languages
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